Babergh/Mid Suffolk: Heritage planning overhaul

Babergh councillor Dawn Kendall outside her house in Bear Street, Nayland.

Babergh councillor Dawn Kendall outside her house in Bear Street, Nayland. - Credit: Andrew Partridge

A DISTRICT council is to overhaul its planning policies for heritage buildings after it was revealed that dozens of rundown historic houses are being put at risk by delays.

A thorough review of the planning departments at Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils will be carried out after it was requested by South Cosford ward member Dawn Kendall.

She said it was “unacceptable” that some heritage home owners had been hit by planning delays of more than two years, which had left them unable to make their properties habitable in the meantime.

Last month the EADT revealed how home owners and surveyors were calling for radical changes to the way applications are assessed. Now the council’s head of economy, Peter Burrows, has said the concerns are being taken “very seriously” and that the district authority is looking to “transform” the way the planning service is delivered.

But Ms Kendall, who lives in a heritage property in Nayland, said: “I have worked closely with a number of heritage home owners in my ward, and forcing people to wait two-and-a-half years for a planning decision is clearly wrong. That’s not being fair to anyone concerned, including the officers.

“In some cases, the decisions that are being delayed are over quite minor alterations to a property, but the planning laws are very subjective and can be interpreted differently from council to council and by different conservation officers.”

Ms Kendall has requested a service review because she is determined to see the situation improve. She added: “The management at Babergh are aware that there is a problem and they want this to be put right. I have requested this review on cases that have come to light as a result of me answering residents’ queries and I am expecting to hold the officers to account, and to see tangible results.”

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Mr Burrows told the EADT that he understood the frustration experienced by some heritage home owners. He said: “We take the concerns being expressed very seriously and are looking to transform the way the planning service – including heritage – is delivered across both Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils. Our aim is to make the service more responsive and pro-active. As part of our transformation programme we are working very closely with the Planning Advisory Service, members and staff.

“As a result, we have already improved the level of accessibility to planning officers at Babergh. This has included setting up a surgery-style session for listed building owners one morning a week.

“Our proposed measures, in conjunction with a service review, will hopefully relieve some of the frustration we believe has been experienced recently.”

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